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US postpones import duties on Roquefort, again

Latest update : 2009-04-22

The US and EU have agreed to extend talks aimed at resolving a two-decade-long dispute over hormone-treated beef. The US has delayed the start of retaliatory duties on products such as Roquefort cheese by at least two weeks.

AFP - The United States Wednesday said it was postponing new import tariffs on European Union products due to progress in resolving a trade dispute over US hormone-treated beef.

The US announced on January 15 it would imposed new tariffs on European products in retaliation for an EU ban on US hormone-treated beef, after the World Trade Organization ruled 11 years ago that the ban was inconsistent with WTO rules.

The tariffs originally were supposed to take effect on March 23, but the US delayed them to April 23 in hopes of resolving the issue.

On the eve of Thursday's deadline, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced a new delay to May 9 in imposing the additional duties "due to recent signs of progress in negotiations with the EU."

"The United States will delay the trade action until May 9, to provide a little more time to negotiate a settlement with the EU," Kirk said in a statement.

The top US trade envoy said negotiations were underway to resolve the trade dispute, which has been festering since 1988 when the EU banned US beef on the grounds that US beef producers made use of certain growth-promoting hormones that are unapproved in the EU.

"The EU has demonstrated seriousness in their efforts to solve this problem, and two additional weeks should be sufficient to establish whether we can address the remaining issues successfully," Kirk said.

The US would triple duties on one EU product, French-produced Roquefort cheese, to 300 percent.

All the other goods on the list, including mineral waters, hams, sausages and chocolate, would have duties of 100 percent.

The WTO in 1998 ruled that the EU had violated trade rules by banning the hormone-treated beef, thereby allowing the US and Canada to impose trade sanctions on the bloc.

But the EU argued in 2003 that it had scientific grounds for the ban, making it valid under trade rules. The United States and Canada rejected that argument and have maintained trade sanctions against the bloc.

Date created : 2009-04-22